Family Sues 3 Bars For Illinois DUI Crash Death

bar drinks - did they cause illinois dui crash?A lawsuit in McHenry County, Illinois is forcing people to ask a question that many thought was settled: when a drunk driver kills, who is responsible?

The drunk driver, of course, but the full question here is: should the driver be held solely responsible, or does some of the blame go to those who could have prevented the death?

The family of Lawrence Madigan, a resident of Crystal Lake, Illinois, is suing three bars at which the driver who crashed into Madigan stopped during a pub crawl. The family alleges that the bars share the responsibility for the intoxication of the driver, Tyler Stewart, who also died in the crash.

The bars dispute the claim that they overserved Stewart.

Illinois has a dram shop law which holds a tavern liable for injury or death caused by an intoxicated patron. Section 6-21 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act states:

Every person who is injured within this State … by any intoxicated person has a right of action in his or her own name, severally or jointly, against any person … who, by selling or giving alcoholic liquor … causes the intoxication of such person.

In having a dram shop law, a state is placing on tavern owners, waiters and bartenders the responsibility of seeing that a patron does not get drunk and drive off – even if the patron wants to do just that. The law implies that an intoxicated person is not able to make a good judgement, and the server must step in and make the judgement for him or her. It does not matter that the drinker chose to drink: once that ability to make a good decision is diminished, it falls on the server to keep the drinker off the road.

The courts will have to decide whether the bars were directly responsible for the intoxication that resulted in this crash. But  as long as dram shop laws exist, it’s taken for granted that servers must be vigilant. Everyone must help keep a drunk driver off the road, because if they don’t, everyone loses.